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September 2004

Customers scour HP World for updates on HP 3000

Select MPE crowd hears migration news outpace homestead help

Browse our photo gallery of HP 3000 events at HP World

At the last Interex conference that could claim no competition from HP, customers with HP 3000 concerns found little competition for space in most meeting rooms. When they toured Exhibit Hall C of the McCormick Center in downtown Chicago, attendees found ample space in an HP World expo that was streamlined of many 3000 products and fellow-customers to inquire after them.

HP 3000 attendees in Chicago came looking for the latest on migration aids and reports, although some also sought updates on the HP’s homestead help. The vendor’s 3000 reps, who arrived in Chicago in numbers diminished from last year, had scant news to share aside from a recap of springtime notices. Dave Wilde, the business manager for the company’s 3000 operations, was not shy about describing the vendor’s ramp-down of projects to help those staying with the platform beyond 2006.

“We are becoming a smaller and smaller focused group,” Wilde said. “We are ratcheting down. You can see it here at HP World, in the number of people we have here and the booth space. Stability is one of the things that’s valued at a time like this. We have to manage expectations.”

Demand for HP’s software has exceeded HP’s expectations. HP announced it will keep its own 3000 subsystem software and applications, such as TurboStore, on the company’s corporate price list through June, 2005. These products were scheduled to drop off at the end of this October. HP’s 3000 software — not the operating system, but other products and modules — has been selling better than before. Wilde said, “I wouldn’t call it high demand. But there’s been higher demand for some software products.”

HP offered no update on five of the strategic System Improvement Ballot requests, except to say that un-throttling the A-Class and N-Class 3000 CPUs would not happen. “No forever,” said Mike Paivinen, the 3000 engineer who’s HP’s primary liaison with the OpenMPE advocacy and engineering volunteer group.

HP offered its late-June decision to convert a limited number of HP 9000s to 3000s as news to the Chicago attendees in August. These conversions could happen for customers who are not intending to migrate, HP’s Paivinen said. But HP wants a customer to show they’re planning for the future, not just looking for a replacement 3000, to get a system converted.

“We want to see a long-term understanding of the business [from the customer], so we can evaluate how the system would fit into the business,” Paivinen said. “We’ll be encouraging people to think beyond what their current business needs are.”

But other than the June replies to the conversion request, and its refusal to decide this year on source code licensing to third parties, HP offered little insight on the eight strategic issues on the SIB. Ross McDonald, the R&D director for 3000 lab projects at HP, explained that the strategic issues are too complex to approve or deny.

“It’s hard to go yes-no on some of those items, because otherwise we’d probably have to say no to almost all of them,” McDonald said. “But then [even a no] wouldn’t be the truth, because we do factor them all into our thinking and our planning.”

The full list of SIB items with explanations and vote totals is on the Interex Web site at www.interex.org/advocacy/survey/2004mpe_results.html.

HP said at HP World that it wants to hear from customers about problems customers expect to encounter after December, 2006. “As you project out any issues that you may have beyond end of support, the thing to do is try to communicate with HP — whether it’s through a sales person or a support person,” Paivinen said.

The update and feedback session on 3000 issues — which drew 45 attendees at its peak — gave customers a chance to ask HP about transition topics, too. One customer said Cognos told him HP won’t revise its performance numbers on HP-UX replacement systems — so Cognos is still charging up to twice as much for HP 9000 versions of its PowerHouse products customers are transferring toward.

HP officials have told customers they should buy a 9000 server twice as powerful as their 3000s to have the same application performance. HP’s Alvina Nishimoto said HP’s got little impact on third party vendor prices, but suggested, “You should challenge them on how the application really performs on 9000 versus 3000. Ask Cognos if they have the performance numbers to support the difference.”

The Cognos customer replied that Cognos has asked for a revised performance tier chart, and that HP has refused to supply one. “How about a new table?” asked Blair Combs, manager of administrative computing at Idaho State University. “We can’t put pressure on the vendors without something from HP about performance.”

Customers were not alone in looking for new resources at HP World. Bob Floyd, the senior HP vice-president in charge of support delivery for North America, said the vendor wants to find new partners to help deliver HP’s 3000 support. HP’s staff isn’t dedicated anymore to only the HP 3000 and MPE product lines, Floyd said.

“We haven’t retained all the field resources,” Floyd said. After Paivinen made a quip about his 50th birthday earlier this year, Floyd joked that some of the field support reps who knew MPE “have left HP, because they are over 50.” The remark drew a hearty laugh from a room full of IT pros near or beyond the 50-year-old mark.

Field resources “are not the retainers of [3000] expertise,” Floyd said. He said the expertise lies inside HP’s call centers, although HP has been searching for independent companies to assist in supporting the customer under the HP aegis.

“We are looking for partners to help us, both in on-site and with call center operations,” Floyd said. “We’re always looking for partners to help us. We think we can get maximum leverage from doing that.” He said the partnership work was being led by Jim DuPree out of HP’s Alpharetta, Ga. offices.

The platform is not taxing HP’s US support resources today. “I get very few calls on the 3000 these days, frankly,” Floyd said. “The majority of the calls are on installation issues, where the field engineer hasn’t worked on the product for some time.”


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